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Posts tagged ‘Happiness’

Transformational love. It can suck.

 

There are some basic truths to life: Everybody will get blisters. Love is overrated.

No, this is better: Pimples are inevitable. Love hurts.

Or, how about this one: All will have bad hair days. Love sucks.

And then the ultimate: The blisters, the pimples and the bad hair days come and go, but love lasts forever.

Over the many years I have lived, I have loved much. I have loved pets and people the most. But I have also loved a knitted cardigan, a ragdoll with matted hair and a cozy corner of my living room.

Right now I love avocados, the dog we used to have, to run, and to feel the cold air playing on my face after ascending a mountain top. I love the smell of rosemary and of cinnamon. I love the sound of children giggling.

The avocado love is the kind of love that doesn’t hurt. Neither does the love of rosemary. It only enriches.

There is a love that transforms and turns us into better people. It is the kind of love that fills us with joy the way the espresso maker fills the coffee cup. The kind that makes us stretch our bodies towards the light, the way the seeds I planted recently are stretching their limber bodies towards the sun. Sometimes I have seen this in children loving their parents so much they want to become them (like my kids imitating my laugh or the way I yelled when I got mad.) More often I see it when two people care about each other very much. It is the kind of love Martin Heidegger described so beautifully:

“Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves. Then we want to thank the beloved, but find nothing that suffices.

We can only thank with our selves. Love transforms gratitude into loyalty to ourselves and unconditional faith in the other. That is how love intensifies its innermost secret.”

So if it makes me better, then why does it also hurt? It is not very difficult to answer. The people we love, great as they may be, are not perfect. They will say things that sting, they will leave their messes on your floor, they will forget your birthday and not notice your haircut. They will do worse things. They will walk away from you, they may not return your calls, and they may not even put smiley faces on the SMSes they send you. They will get irritated with you and some will even choose other people over you.

The people I love are flawed, like I am flawed. It is simply not fair to think of them as the fulfilment of all my dreams, longings, desires and wildest adventures. No mortal can fill my expectations and need for a thousand million things.  My satisfaction must be found in the assurance I have of my own value. My pleasure comes from being with people I love, of course. But I cannot always count on them being pleasurable. So when they are not, I must decide that that is OK. I can still choose happiness.

Needing to be loved is tiring. Loving, on the other hand is life-giving. We become what we love, but remain ourselves. And if I may be as bold as to add my own thoughts to the fine thoughts of Heidegger, I would add: Love gives. It can never take. Receive, yes, but not take.

So there you have it. Love. So easy to love, we think. Until we understand that love is a verb. Then it dawns on us that loving means cleaning the coffee cups, even though you did it yesterday too. It may mean sharing the last sandwich even though you are still hungry. It may mean getting off of Facebook to listen to a story as interesting as genealogy of the kings of France. It may mean sharing the blanket, even though you feel cold.

Love. lOvE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wedged Bear in Great Tightness

The wisdom of Pooh comes to me in small drips every so often. “Would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?” he humbly asked when he was stuck in Rabbit’s rabbit hole. And, the way I see it, he summarised the plight of mankind.

A Wedged Bear in Great Tightness

A Wedged Bear in Great Tightness (or is it a pig? Same, same, but different. I drank this bear-pig.)

My little friend at Starbucks felt like Pooh this morning when he tried to add all my purchases for breakfast and promised me a discount that he wasn’t able to punch into the computer. It took me 20 minutes and many encouraging nods before I finally had my coffee, yoghurt and musli. In the end, the coffee wasn’t so good and I burned my tongue.

I too feel wedged in great tightness these days. It is like wherever I turn, there is no way out. I listened to the stories of the Rohingya for a week, and there were not one tiny scrap of good news for them. And, while I tried being good and kind and loving, one cannot change a political system with a smile. I felt at the end of the week that I had only questions and no answers. Stuck. In great tightness.

I fell in love, but all I could give her was cuddles.

I fell in love, but all I could give her was cuddles.

I arrived in Malaysia and here the needs continue. Exploitations, land grabs, lack of food, climate destruction, and, as I walked down a dirty street today, a crazy lady was sitting right in front of me peeing. No, this is not even slightly exaggerated. She did, and I saw it. And I thought: Has it come to this?

Pooh was mostly upset about all the meals he would be missing while stuck there in the hole. Just like me sometimes when I am stuck the way I feel right now. I listen to sad stories all day and watch people go to the bathroom on the street, and then I go to bed thinking about an outfit I really wish for. Or, like now, I think about cheese.

Pooh was desperate, as am I, and when meals were out, there was another option for him: The Sustaining book. Ah, the sustaining book! That is what I need too. And, if I am not totally mistaken, it is what the world needs. In the Sustaining book we will find the wisdom to live and to love. In the Sustaining book I will find the comfort I need in this time of great tightness. Such as this:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I can’t remember what good the Sustaining book did Pooh, if anything. But I know that for me, I need the book and I need the friends around me who help me get out of the hole I feel stuck in. If I all I see is the dirt below me and the the muck mixed with it I think I will remain as useless as a wedged bear. One cannot focus on the great tightness, but on the way out of it. That is why I was happy talking to my good friends today. Not only have they dedicated their lives to helping the poor and the oppressed. They are constantly thinking up new ways to get better at what they are doing. In their footsteps are rescued women, saved children and dignified men. Then, busy as they are doing good things, they took the time to talk to me and helped pull me out of the tightness I felt.

Such fruit will come from the ones reading the Sustaining book and following the advice given therein.

 

Thich Nhat Hanh and me

“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,” said Thich Nhat Hanh and I said ouch.

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Understanding needs no language

Over the years I have done so much loving that I think I deserve champion status. I have loved cats (well, not so much) and dogs, kids, friends, neighbors, orphans, widows, aliens and some people whom have been considered unlovely by many. I have loved them to the best of my ability. Often, I admit, the love has been flawed. That little blond boy I had a crush on in second grade may not have appreciated my love so much. Neither have my teenage daughters when they, at times, have been approached by a relatively neurotic mother who wanted to know exactly where they had been, and with who.

The thing about my love is that it has often been offered with wrong intentions and with limited understanding. “Understanding is love’s other name,” continues Thich Nhat Hanh, and I think that this is where most of us miss the mark. We love the way we think love should be expressed, assuming that the receiver of our love sees things exactly how we do. Not only that, but we love based on what we think is right and good.Understanding is creative

 

Once my daughter loved a rabbit so much she hugged him to death. I think that may illustrate my point.

Years ago, getting to know refugees from Burma for the first time, I thought that the best way to love them was to give them all the stuff they didn’t have. I could give them clothes, food, old calendars with photos from Norway, medicines, and nail polish. Thinking I knew what they needed, my love was expressed from a sincere desire to be like Jesus. But over the years I have understood that I misunderstood Jesus, as well as the needs of the refugees. First off, I realized that what I think of as necessities are not always. Refugees don’t need coffee in the morning. I do. Also, I realized that handing them the stuff I thought they needed (and that they in fact did need) was not the best way to love them. Loving people more often means enabling them to provide for themselves.

If I may be so bold, I would like to add to Thich Nhat Hanh’s statement: If understanding is love’s other name, then listening is understanding’s other name. 

See,  I have come to understand that we cannot show true love to another person (nor people group or nation) without first understanding them. And there is no way we can understand them before we take a deep breath, stop thinking we know what the other person thinks and start listening.

So here is my challenge: Start loving with your ears. Become a detective that finds clues while observing the person or the group of people you want to love. You will be surprised to find that love is not always expressed the way you thought it ought to be expressed. It will take some self discipline and a wee bit of humility. But I have the faith that it can be done. It starts with me, and I am my biggest challenge. My heart is small, observes Thich Nhat Hanh. My compassion is limited. He recommends expanding my heart so I can love better.

His suggestions I find life-shattering. Because what he is proposing is that often I love because inside me there is an empty space that needs to be filled, and I try to fill it by loving others. It is only when that empty space is first filled that we can offer real love. When the focus of our love is them and not us, we can really start to understand. It is then that their suffering become our suffering, and their joy becomes ours.

And the question one must ask then, is: If it isn’t from loving others, where does our contentment and joy come from? Thich Nhat Hanh suggests practicing mindfulness which I think is a good place to start. My own personal opinion is that while practicing this mindfulness one will meet God who kindly whispers that his love is enough, and that the value he has given me does not depend on my deeds, but on the fact that I am a child of his.

So, this morning, I am thankful for the thoughts of Thich Nhat Hanh and for the chance to practice love to the people around me. I will seek to understand.

The article that inspired all this thoughts came from my, at the moment, favorite website: Brain pickings 

 

 

 

 

 

The true meaning of Christmas: To shop, eat and get drunk (?)

I spent some time yesterday thinking back on the best memories I have from different Christmases.

One memory is from a hospital in northern Thailand where I had given birth to a baby the day before Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve there was a knock on the door and then my good friend entered dressed in a Santa hat, and with a full dinner in her basket. She brought lamb chops, potatoes and all kinds of condiments. For a few hours she had left husband and children alone just so she could spend some time with our little family, and to bring some Christmas cheer. With my gut torn up by a C-section, boobs that were about to explode and a body that felt like it was leaking both here and there, her dinner and the love warmed me more than an electric blanket.

Sure a good thing that somebody came to cheer us up!

Sure a good thing that somebody came to cheer us up!

I remember my husband and my first Christmas together. We were so poor we could only afford to spend ten simple dollars on each other. I bought him a pair of fleece socks and he bought me markers. Strangely enough, I remember these gifts better than i remember gifts we have given each other in later years, when we have been able to afford more expensive stuff. Perhaps because not as much thought has been behind those gifts.

What parent doesn’t remember his or her child’s homemade gifts, and not to mention, the look of expectancy in their faces while we unwrap the pieces of art: A jewelry box decorated with more glue than beads, a knitted pot holder with holes and uneven stitches, a handmade card complete with enough spelling errors to give teachers a breakdown. I value these gifts, with all their imperfections, more than the most expensive diamond (which is an impossible comparison since diamonds have no value whatsoever for me. But I hope you understand the analogy).

I will never forget Christmases spent with refugees and poor people in Burma. If you ever want to understand the essence of Christmas I recommend sitting with these people under the starry sky while they sing Christmas carols while thanking God that he came and became a baby. Suddenly all stress and worry is forgotten, and only the most important remains: Faith, hope and fellowship with one another. During these times I have felt neither race, class or generation gaps. I have not felt that my makeup wasn’t on right, or that I underdressed for the occasion. Like magic we have melted together like one big pot of Beef Stroganoff, each one of us with our own infirmities.

Christmas a different way

Christmas a different way

These people are able to do something we are not so good at. They have chosen to prioritize the real values, the ones that will last. I am not talking about the added flab around our waist due to too many Christmas calories, but I am talking about the strength one receives from fellowship and care for one another.

When I think back on all our Christmases, I don’t remember the times when we had the most amount of money and bought expensive gifts for each other. I don’t remember the times when I had been able to clean the whole house for the holidays. Our decorations have never followed a particular color scheme, and we will never be considered experts on Christmas interior. But that doesn’t matter. What is left as the good memories are the people and the community, the feeling of belonging and being loved. I think that is what all of us actually want for Christmas. We want it so much more than the new iPhone.

Last year we invited some refugees from Burma over to make cookies with us. I will never forget one of the things they said:

“Here in this country people are not as concerned with fellowship with one another. But they are very interested in buying stuff for Christmas. In our village everybody would gather and celebrate Christmas together. We sang carols and made good food. We miss our own village during Christmas time. We are often so lonely here during this time.”

The true meaning of Christmas? I think it is what we all want. Togetherness in a place where we are allowed to be imperfect and true. The feeling of acceptance, even in our failures. Love that says: I know you don’t have it all together, but that is OK. I am in the same boat. If only one add some marzipan and chocolate to this mixture, one has the recipe for a good Christmas.

I am going to sit down with a cup of coffee now. With my coffee I will have a cookie my daughter made yesterday. It is not a piece of art, but it was made with a lot of love. I can taste it.

The search for significance. Looking all the wrong places.

Today I lost it. The world is for sure joining its forces against me. I was denied the grant to help fund my new book. And get this, this happened a day after I got a crappy grade on my exam in human rights and advocacy. As if this is not enough to ruin my day I can add a list of strikes against me:

A good friend nominated me for a women’s prize, but my name must have gotten lost in the pile of other names because I never even made the list of the people the committee recommended. (Or perhaps the nominating committee just held their stomachs, pointed to my name and laughed through the whole meeting).

I called, emailed, texted and wrote to a dozen people about Partners, and they never even bothered replying to me.

I wrote articles that I personally thought were masterpieces and got polite replies back from a long list of magazines and newspapers saying that they are sorry they cannot publish my piece this time, but good luck to you.

My blog is not gaining any followers.

My Instagram pictures have fewer likes than my children’s.

My husband got a better grade on his exam than I did, and that despite the fact that his writing is crap, and he spent two hours on it.

The new government in our country sucks so bad I am starting to feel like hiding the fact that I am Norwegian. I feel that even this could be a reason for me to fail in life.

And now the sheets I hang out to dry got rained on.

My daughter gave me a makeover some days ago. It was fun and it made me feel beautiful. But, strangely, it didn't make me more popular. It also didn't turn me into a better person. But, did you know how to put on bronzer?

My daughter gave me a makeover some days ago. It was fun and it made me feel beautiful. But, strangely, it didn’t make me more popular. It also didn’t turn me into a better person. But, did you know how to put on bronzer?

All around me I see people who succeed at everything they do. In fact, some of them have succeeded even before they start. Pieces are published in magazines, newspapers and online that get shared and commented on, and I read it and think that my stuff is so much better. Books get published and become bestsellers, and I think: Who likes this stuff? People wake up pretty. Others seem to have all the time in the world to go for runs, hikes, bike rides and exotic trips with their backpacks and tent. Me, I am feeling lucky the days I have time to take the dog for a walk for 30 minutes.

Everybody else seems to have the coolest friends and they are always getting together in the evenings wearing their nice clothes and perfectly manicured nails and drink wine from pretty glasses while they laugh at each other’s jokes and encourage each other. Me, I am often so tired that I spend the evenings at home, watching TV and eating potato chips.

Okey, we may not hang with the people with the crystal glasses. And quite frankly, when I think about it, I would rather hang out with the ones who will sit by the fire with me, drinking wine from paper cups.

Okey, we may not hang with the people with the crystal glasses. And quite frankly, when I think about it, I would rather hang out with the ones who will sit by the fire with me, drinking wine from paper cups.

The list could go on, but I feel that if I keep writing, I will put myself into depression and all the dishes piled up on my kitchen counter may never get done.

As I looked at the denial letter I got in the mail today, I honestly thought: Of course they would not grant me the money I applied for. What do they care? Plus, when will I get it? I am not very good at writing, or much else for that matter.

But then, after a while wallowing in self-pity I asked myself a question that needs to be asked. Who are you trying to impress?

I have been trying to teach my children this their whole life, but it seems I need to learn it myself to: What you do and what people think about you don’t determine your worth. It simply can’t. So often I set my own value based on my successes and failures. Obviously that means that some days I am super valuable, and other days I am completely worthless. The last week I haven’t been worth much more than the broken trashcan I use for composting.

We could say I have been feeling the way I look here.

We could say I have been feeling the way I look here.

What I have told others, and believe is true for them, is that their true worth is who they are when they take away all the exterior stuff. Our true value is not how we look, how much money we make, how many articles we get published, how many prizes we receive, or how many friends we have. Our true value is in the core of who we are.

Once Steve asked me, and I have been pondering this: “What would your worth be if you were paralyzed from the neck down, lost your hearing and your vision? Would that change my value as a human being?” If the answer is yes, then we do live in a world that places people’s value on their ability to perform, as well as on their performance. And to be totally honest, that is kind of the world we do live in.

But is it right? Of course not. A person has his or her value because of the fact that he or she is a human being, created in the image of God. Nothing can take that truth away. If I can just start believing that, and act as if it is true, then a denial letter or a bad grade won’t throw me into the sump of self-pity and depressive thoughts. It will just be a bump in the road, on the road called life.

So, here I am, on a rainy day, determined to keep striving to get better, and to aim for excellence. But at the same time as I am doing this, I will also keep reminding myself that the outcomes don’t determine my value. My value has already been set and it won’t change. In the words of Winston Churchill: Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.

For Elise

Dear Elise,

This morning I looked through an old album of photos of when you were little and thought about how fast time has passed. All mothers do this. When our children leave home, we get all sentimental and miss those years when our kids still needed us to tie their shoes and put on Bandaids on bruised knees.

Elise princess

We miss the times together on the bed or on the sofa reading The Rainbow Fish, the Wizard of Oz or other classics. I think back on the first time you sat by yourself, walked by yourself, rode a bicycle by yourself, went to school by yourself, swam by yourself, spoke in front of a crowd by yourself, played the piano, sang solo, spelled your name, took the school bus by yourself, had your first sleepover, went on a school social, had your first test, got your first tooth and when you lost our first tooth. I remember the first time you kissed a boy (you were four) and the first time a friend betrayed you. I remember your first doll, your first pair of shoes, your first pair of underwear, your first bicycle, your first backpack, your first pink dress with sequins and the first book you read by yourself.

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Now, you are going to live life by yourself. All by yourself.

I hope you do remember to cover public toilet seats with paper before you sit on them. You must make sure you get enough sleep every night. Take some time to read some of those books I have told you to read. Did you get dental floss? You must floss. And how about sunscreen? A little flax seed in your cereal every morning will do you so much good. 

I am pretty sure you will take good care of yourself. You may skip the flossing, but I know you will never forget about the hand washing. 

The thing I am more concerned about is how you are going to spend the rest of your life. Will you spend it trying to look good, and trying to make others think that you are in charge of your own life and your circumstances, that you are invincible? Or will you spend your life enjoying who you are, living for that which really matters, and taste that life is good?

When one is as young as you are (or as old as I am) one often thinks that happiness is when we finally “make it.” We spend our lives looking for a happiness that actually already is inside us. What we spend our lives chasing after we will never find if we keep running after it.

It is hard to describe this thing that is within you (and me). Some call it our spirit. That is how I think about it. You can feel it sometimes if you take the time to be really, really quiet. You may feel it when you listen to some music that does something more than just entertain you. You may feel it as you take a deep breath and admire scenery more beautiful than words. You may feel it when you are so connected to people that all you want is to spend more time with them. You may feel it when you get to do an activity that makes you forget about time and place. You may feel it when you pray.

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We can see it when people are kind to another person. Especially if it is being kind to a person that is neither good-looking, rich nor popular.

We are taught to believe that we are here in this world to succeed, and the world has defined for us what that success is. We see it on the billboards, on social media (where the goal seems to be to look as close to perfect as possible, and one’s worth is determined by the amount of likes), on TV and in glossy magazines. But you are not your bank account (or mine for that matter. Sorry we never had enough money to buy all these brand-name clothes, shoes and purses). You are not your successes and failures. You are Elise. You are here to be loved and to love. You are free, even though that is hard to believe at times.

So how to you feed your spirit? Not with flax seeds. Not with a mask of makeup and perfectly shaped eye brows. No, you do it by start walking by the light you have been given. Take the first step.

I am sorry to say so, but it seems that whether you choose to follow Jesus (he is the one I cheer for, as you know) or any other great leader, you will have to start by helping others. You don’t have to follow me to Burma, and to Partners, unless that is what you want to do. But do look for the ones who have less, the ones who are lonely, the ones who are sick or the ones who, for whatever reason, feel that life did not give them a fair chance. Give water to the thirsty, feed the hungry, visit the lonely. You will be surprised at how much happiness it will bring your spirit.

elise and karen friend

Laugh. Laughing an underestimated activity that people stop doing when they grow older and think they need to be responsible. But we need to laugh. Most of all we need to learn to laugh at ourselves.

Rest, and enjoy the small moments of simple pleasures, such as the smell of the ocean, the crumbled-up drawing given by a small child, a smile from a stranger or the taste of the summer’s first strawberry.

So, here I am, hoping that I have not made you fall asleep already. I said all this, when all I really needed to say was this: You are loved. You have all it takes inside you. Don’t follow others if you don’t think it is right. Make your own choices. Don’t try to be perfect. Laugh, love and rest.

And just one last piece of advice: Don’t mix light and dark colors when you do your laundry.

I love you more than words can express,

Mom

 

 

 

 

The sad nation of bread and jam and other lessons

My new little friend whose name, she says, is Carrot, looks at me with a concerned face. She is eight years old and is trying to learn about the world she is living in. “So, in your country, what do you eat every day,” she asks. “Different things, like bread and potatoes,” I reply. This is when she starts feeling very sorry for me: “Oh, yes, I have heard that in your country you just eat bread and jam. It is a shame that you don’t have anything else to eat.” I want to defend myself and add: “Well, we also eat fish.” She is not impressed. “It must be hard for your people. You are never really full, are you? You should all move to our village where you could eat all the rice you want and feel really full.”

Carrot showing off her Play Doh sculpture.

Carrot showing off her Play Doh sculpture.

She and her friends are sitting on the porch of the house where we are staying stringing beads and making necklaces, rings and bracelets for themselves and for the members of our team. Carrot speaks up again: “Why don’t you have any green beads. These are only pink and purple ones.” “We are going to use green beans for something else later,” I explain. “And why do you want green anyway?” “Because green is the color of everything growing in the nature. That’s why,” she says and settles for the boring pinks and purples that have no meaning whatsoever.

After a while she has thought of a new question for me. “How long will it take you to get back to your country then?” “Two whole days,” I say, not including that this is just the flight home, not the two days it takes to drive to her village on the border of Burma. “Two days! That means you won’t get home until Thursday. Me, I have never been that far away from home. The furthest I have been is over there. See that village over there? That is the furthest I have been.”

As we keep stringing the beads there are other themes discussed as well. One of them is the two copulating dogs we saw on our way back from taking a bath in the river. “Did you see the two dogs we passed?” Carrot asks. I feel a little embarrassed to discuss what we had observed. Somehow I feel that teaching about reproduction is not part of my job description. I have to admit I passed the dogs quickly without looking too closely. For the children, however, it is just part of living in a village surrounded by animals. “Did you see those two dogs?” Asks Carrot. “Well, yes, I did happen to see them,” I reply and want to change the theme. “You know what it means, don’t you?” My little friend asks in a way that makes me understand she is checking how much we have learned about the cycle of life in our bread-eating country. I act ignorant. “OK, it means that in not too long we are going to have dog babies here in the village,” she patiently explains to me while she ties the ends of her necklace together. Then she tells me that she unfortunately has to leave the team and me now as she has other commitments. She needs to go home and take a bath and eat her dinner.

As I watch her leave I am confident that I have just met one of tomorrow’s leaders. I am so glad that it is girls like her that Partners help educate.

And here is Carrot's friend. I just had to add this picture because it is beautiful.

And here is Carrot’s friend. I just had to add this picture because it is beautiful.

What do you think are the three essentials in life?

Boy, do I remember my days as a radical activist of 18. Life was so easy. It was mostly black and white. You were either good or bad. It was easy to categorize the world into neat compartments. The poor and the rich, the conservative and the liberal, the healthy and the unhealthy, the smart and the stupid. I would always, and I mean always, sympathize with the poor. And I considered myself liberal, healthy (I ate whole wheat and raw foods), and smart. I also thought that all smart people would agree with me.

Life was easy when the solutions were simple

Life was easy when the solutions were simple

Now I see that life is not that simple. Some people are smart who don’t agree with me. Some poor people are jerks. Many rich people are incredibly kind. People can eat healthy and still get cancer. Others can live on Coke and chips and stay skinny. Life is not straight forward, black and white. Life is not fair. And life is not predictable.

Now, as a middle aged woman I have learned that most people care mostly about themselves and the sphere they live in. I read in the new today that the members of the International Olympic committee are going to change the rule that says they can only stay in the committee until they are 80. They think that is too young to resign. They feel discriminated.

I read the news and try to understand the conflict in Ukraine and the more I read, the less I do understand. Just trying to keep the names of the actors straight is a challenge. Never mind who is for the engagement with the West and who is for the East. And who is the less corrupt of the ones who are struggling for power.

I see that the president in Uganda says that gay people are disgusting. So he signed a bill that will allow the police to arrest and imprison gay people because they are gay.

What a messed up world!

I read that the world has stopped caring for the people in Syria. The world is a bit bored with the whole situation. Been there, done that. Tell me something new instead. Not the same old story about children getting killed, of a generation lost, of millions without blankets in the cold. That is so…Yesterday.

Today my friend and colleague in Fortify Rights, Matthew Smith published a report with undeniable proof of the Burma government’s systematic and planned discrimination, oppression and harassment of the Rohingya population. And after the release the government of Myanmar came right back and said: “The government does not remark on baseless accusations from Bengali lobbyist groups.” What else could they say except to admit that what the report said is correct?

I am working on a degree in development. Not that I have the time, but I do have the desire. We are studying the effects of climate change this semester. If you want to get really, really depressed, then study that.

The paper I have to read this week challenges my brain cells, and has forced me to drink more coffee than I should. But it is challenging in a good way. It is written by Archbishop Rowan Williams, and he says good stuff. One of his points in this paper is that the real problem with climate change, as well as other social issues is that we have lost a sense of what life is. We are disconnected and need to be reintroduced to life. He goes on to say that saving the human future is inseparable from  securing a future for all living things. Later he talks about how we need to understand that we all live in a shared world, not a world that belongs to ourselves. 

I felt encouraged in a weird way as I read this. To save our planet from climate destruction, from moral and ethical destruction, we need to be reintroduced to life. We need to start connecting with the things that really matter. And if I build that down to the essentials, I think I am left with just three things: God, relationships and nature. Botox, exotic travels, decadent meals, leather boots and designer purses don’t make it on the list of essentials. We lived in a shared world. That is what it is all about.

 

 

5 things to help children not get arrested

I have been thinking about happiness. I guess one of the reasons I have had this in mind is that I want to be happy. And when I find the ever so small seed of discontent in my heart, it is time to ask why. The answers I find, I gladly share.

But then I find myself embarrassed by my small world. I am even more embarrassed by the fact that I can be discontent when I have every privilege one can ever wish for.

In my last blog I wrote that it sometimes is helping others that will give us the greatest happiness. I truly believe that!

The last few days I have been getting some disturbing reports from Burma. They have not just been disturbing. They have been appalling. We have heard of more attacks on the Rohingya people that I have written about in the past. Now we hear of children and women getting hacked to death for no reason, and of the police arresting all men and boys aged ten and older. You can read a detailed account of the atrocities here. My good friend and hero, Matt Smith in Fortify Rights, wrote it. He spent a long time verifying the facts. And if you know Matt, you know that when he says something, it is true.

This is me with Matt and his wife Amy. Matt is a lot better at human rights reporting than he is with technical stuff such as iPhones.

This is me with Matt and his wife Amy. Matt is a lot better at human rights reporting than he is with technical stuff such as iPhones.

It makes me sick.

But this is the thing: Feeling terrible about terrible stuff isn’t going to help anybody. We have to do something. So I thought of five things we could do to help these people right now. And here is where you come it. I need help from EVERYBODY!

1. Read the report Matt wrote and post it all over the place, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, on your blog, on Tumblr and Flickr and on all the other social medias you can imagine. I can’t keep track of them all. The more people that hear about this, the less likely it is that it will happen again. The government of Burma may not care about Rohingya children getting killed, but they do care about their reputation and about the big companies in the world wanting to invest in their country so that they can be richer than they are now. And companies are less likely to invest in countries that massacre their own citizens. It is just how it is.

Boys aged ten and older can get arrested.

Boys aged ten and older can get arrested.

2. Give money! I know it sounds old, but the fact is that unless we have the money, we cannot help these people. Last year we gave food to thousands of Rohingya who were starving. We treated the sick. We gave blankets and tarps. We documented and reported what was happening. It was all possible because people gave  us money, and it will not be possible unless we do get money. So GIVE! Here

3. Contact your government. Ask politicians if they seriously don’t think that this is awful behavior and if they think so, what are they going to do about your county’s involvement with Burma. Are they still going to wine and dine the president, Thein Sein? Or are they going to say that unless he and his government starts to treat the Rohingya as human beings, then your country won’t have anything to do with them. You know that it is the little people like you and I who count. If there are many enough of us, something is going to happen. But that means we all need to take responsibility and don’t just hope somebody else will do it.

4. Pray. I do struggle with prayer sometimes. I don’t know if it works. I don’t understand how it works. But I think we need to put the theological questions aside and just do what the Bible tells us to do: Pray. Pray for an end to the violence. Pray that you will get God’s heart for the Rohingya. Pray for all the children who have lost their parents, their homes and everything they know. Get a heart for the children!

Arrange a Run for Relief. It is fun and good!

Arrange a Run for Relief. It is fun and good!

5. Arrange an event! What is more fun than when many people get together and do something meaningful? Imagine arranging a relief run for the Rohingya, or a yard sale? Or how about doing a dinner, or invite a bunch of ladies to do a ladies’ night and have them all donate to the cause. You could do a concert, or a theater performance on the street if you are brave. There are so many great ideas to do, and the only limit is your own creativity. Imagine that all that fun actually could help save the lives of people who felt forgotten or resented. To help you out, here is a great link for ideas that will get you so excited!

So there you go. Five great ideas for things to do to help the Rohingya today or in the next few days. And when it comes to happiness: I think the best medicine to get happy is not to smoke pot, but to focus our eyes away from ourselves and on to others.

More steps to pursuing genuine happiness

I am in the pursuit of happiness. Most of the world seems to be on the same path as me. But we seem to be looking for happiness in different places. Some of us think that a meal to fill our hungry stomachs will make us happy. Others think that a new private jet will.

It was nice that so many read my last blog about happiness. A few of you kindly added a couple of points that I had left out. The one that I want to apologize for not mentioning was: Tickle attack. When one has been tickled, or tickle others, then the happiness one feels in one’s body remains in our bodies for a long time afterwards. Like a drug. Want to be happy? Tickle and be tickled.

Then I wanted to add two more points to my list of things that I think will make us happy. And, no, a private jet did not make my list.

Connection to God is important. So is connection to others. Here you see Partners staff feeling very connected through dancing.

Connection to God is important. So is connection to others. Here you see Partners staff feeling very connected through dancing.

1. To be connected.

I like Psalm 1 i the Bible where it says that by delighting in the Law of the Lord one is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. Personally my connection is with God, and if I don’t have him, then I am like a tree with no roots, or like an electric cord with no outlet to plug into. To be connected to something that is higher than myself gives me more meaning and happiness than anything else I can think of. Why?

Because it makes me realize that while I am significant, I am also like dust. The world does not rest on my shoulders alone. I am just a piece of the big whole. In God I can find meaning when the world seems meaningless, in him I can find comfort when I feel hurt and discouraged, and in him I can find hope when it looks like the black hole is ever increasing.

To me it seems impossible to experience true happiness unless we are connected to something bigger than ourselves. Some people may disagree, and I am fine with that. But, honestly, you should give God a try.

One of the things I really admire is when people spend their time and own money to help others. Like my friend, Hanne, and her sons who on their own initiative sold sponsorships and collected money for Partners. I hope they felt happy afterwards.

One of the things I really admire is when people spend their time and own money to help others. Like my friend, Hanne, and her sons who on their own initiative sold sponsorships and collected money for Partners. I hope they felt happy afterwards.

2. Help somebody

The happiest people I know are the ones who are the most generous people. Not just generous with their money, but with their resources and time too. And the most unhappy ones? The greedy ones who are always looking at how to rip some people off, thinking of how they can avoid sharing, and even how to cheat on their taxes. A person who is always thinking of him or herself will never be truly happy. But the ones who are always reaching out to others will experience a satisfaction as fulfilling as getting tickled. We get tickled by generosity.

It’s interesting to me that often the most generous people are the ones who own the least. And yet, they often seem content even though they are poor.

Today I read that the richest 85 people on the globe between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together. This is a thought that has nauseated me most of the day. Can it be? 3.5 billion people own as much combined as those 85 people. What I wonder is this: Are the 85 people who all could fit into a double-decker bus happy? Do they wake up in the mornings content? I wonder if giving most of their wealth away would have made them more or less happy? What do you think?

At Partners we have made helping others into a career. Many of us are constantly out of money and lack of sleep. But are we happy? I think we probably are happier than many. Not because of our wealth of money, but because of the wealth of joy helping other people gives us.

Here is an article I read today about helping an other person. I thought it was very encouraging.

Want to be happier? Try God. Try fellowship. Try to help somebody who needs your help, here or elsewhere. I think this will make you happier than unlimited credit at Nordstroms.

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